FOWC — CONTROL? WHAT CONTROL? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Control

If I thought that maybe I had finally gotten my online life under control, I was wrong. Again. It’s just getting worse and worse and there is no end in sight.

I just got this message.


Dear Marilyn,
As one of our registered users, we bring to your attention that on June 4, 2018, at 1pm EST we became aware of a data breach involving 92.3 million email addresses of MyHeritage users, and their hashed passwords (these are not actual passwords).
We learned about the breach when MyHeritage’s Chief Information Security Officer received a message from a security researcher that he had found a file named MyHeritage containing email addresses and hashed passwords, on a private server outside of MyHeritage. Our Information Security Team received the file from the security researcher, reviewed it, and confirmed that its contents originated from MyHeritage and included all the email addresses of users who signed up to MyHeritage up to October 26, 2017, and their hashed passwords. We made a public announcement about the breach within 8 hours of learning about it.
Your email address was one of the accounts in the data breach.
Immediately upon receipt of the file, MyHeritage’s Information Security Team analyzed the file and began an investigation to determine how its contents were obtained and to identify any potential exploitation of the MyHeritage system. We determined that the file was legitimate and included the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92,283,889 users who had signed up to MyHeritage up to and including Oct 26, 2017 which is the date of the breach. MyHeritage does not store user passwords, but rather a one-way hash of each password, in which the hash key differs for each customer. This means that anyone gaining access to the hashed passwords does not have the actual passwords.

That is more than 92 MILLION PEOPLE whose email addresses — at the least — have been breached. There is more to this information including that they are sure no one really got passwords. I’d like to believe them, but since this hack was way back last October and I’m only hearing about it NOW, I don’t know what to believe. At least they don’t store credit card numbers. I suppose I should be grateful at least for that … but do they now have my DNA results? They say not, but they could. AND my husband’s.

You want to know how we get hacked? This is it. Companies get hacked. Half the time, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until months later, after which they do everything in their power to cover it up.

Hackers don’t need to breach our personal computers. All they need is information they get from hacking the companies with whom we work. I’m beginning to wonder who has NOT been hacked. Which company I use has thus far been spared.

Has any large company been spared?

Anything that sounds too good to be true isn’t true. Anyone giving you something for free is lying. Calls from Microsoft or the make of your computer (Dell, for example, or Mac for another)?

It’s a hack.

I got a call from “Dell Customer Service” this morning. Although Dell hasn’t announced a breach, I’m guessing there has been one yet to be announced because hackers have my computers basic serial numbers– which unlike a password, are embedded in the computer. As are numbers for every computer made. That’s how we can identify where the information came from and to whence it is going.

teravivos.com

There IS no safety as far as I can tell. Don’t talk to anyone on the phone if you have no reason to expect the call. If you have not contacted them and asked for a return call and given them a code word so you know it is actually the real people calling, HANG UP. No conversation. Don’t be cute. Don’t play mind games. Hang up. Immediately.

On another — yet somehow parallel concept — Donald Trump, our erstwhile national leader, seems to think he can trust Kim Jun On to “do the right thing” vis-à-vis nuclear arms. Right.

It’s another hack. Our NATIONAL hack.

HOW DID THAT HACK HAPPEN? – Marilyn Armstrong

A friend asked me how a hack could happen.

You can find plenty of information about this in the news almost every night. Multiple attempts by many governments to locate these guys and take them down are always underway. The problem is, there are a lot of them. Many are funded by the Russians and for all know, other hostile governments.

Does everyone think these guys hacked our election, then quit hacking?

They’ve hacked (that I know of): Equifax, Bank of America, Adobe, Lands End, Amazon, Facebook … and probably a lot more than that, but these I know about because they have all been in touch with me to warn me.

Forget about the dozens of television series that deal with this issue. If you read a newspaper or watch the news, the information is not exactly secret. The busting of these hacker rings has been major news for at least three years and probably longer, so if you’ve missed it … you should catch up. Hackers thrive on people who don’t understand what’s going on. That’s why they pick on the elderly so often.

Essentially, it all happened in one afternoon. Anyone whose identity has been stolen can understand how quickly your financial life can fall apart. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me. I lost no money, although I had to spend $90 on a new router. I also spent a lot of time rebuilding my computer, but since I did it myself, it didn’t cost me anything.

Should credit card companies be more on the alert? Absolutely. They are pretty sharp even now. Far more alert than our so-called government who seem collectively helpless to fix this. I think they don’t want to fix it, but what do I know, right?

Anyone can call Experion, Equifax, or TransUnion and ask that they put your credit on alert. You can do this automatically on the phone and you only have to call one company who will alert the other two. If one of you has been hacked or think you might be in danger, you don’t have to wait until they have hacked your accounts before you deal with it.

Once you’ve set up an alert, all credit companies must contact you directly before granting credit in your name or changing your address, telephone number, email address, or password. I can’t even count the number of people who’ve been hacked on Facebook — had their accounts stolen. I think someone stole my Twitter account, but since I never used it, I didn’t know about it for weeks.

If you think you are safe because nothing like this has ever happened to you, you are naïve. It can — does — happen to everyone. Anyone. Young. Old. Retired. Poor. Rich. It hurts more when you are poor, but it won’t stop the hackers. If you’ve got any money, they’ll take it and leave you with nothing.

These are not people with a conscience or a sense of right and wrong. They don’t care what happens to you. They do not care if they kill you in the process, either.

So, here’s the timeline:

1.  Facebook gave my personal data to Cambridge Analytica. For a fee, I’m sure. I know this because Facebook told me they did it. They didn’t seem upset about and felt I shouldn’t be either. Right.

2.  Cambridge Analytica sold my data to hackers, most of whom are supported by the Russians.

3.  They got more information by hacking my home router. This had already happened in Europe, but no one mentioned it on our news, so we didn’t know. By the time they did mention it, it was 24 hours too late for me.

4.  They pretended to be a different company and had sufficient data to make me think they might be real. When they demanded money to protect my computer, I instantly knew they were hackers.

5.  They attempted to take money from a bank who controlled 3 credit separate cards, two of which I knew about. I stopped the transfers and they never got anything. The final one I only discovered today, but again, I’m covered, so no loss to me.

6.  They locked my computer and demanded $1000 to “protect” it. Talk about a mobster move! Not a snowball’s chance in hell. There’s no guarantee if you give them money they will release your computer anyway and I’ll bet they don’t. Not exactly trustworthy guys.

7.  To get my computer back, I had to rebuild it. From scratch. Which was not so bad — boring but not difficult. Because I back up my files, I was able to restore everything. In all, I lost one document, but I can live with it.

8.  I had to buy a new router with a protective patch.

Does this mean they can’t get me — or you — again? Of course not. These hackers are gigantic organizations heavily funded by Russian money. if they can hack Equifax, they can bypass my protection on a whim. And the places they operate are glad to have them. They hire people. They are a big business.

At the bottom of my personal mess is Facebook. They casually took my personal data and sold it to hackers.

It’s so simple …

Facebook made this happen. Our government helped them by refusing to go after the hackers. If you think Trump is a good guy, remember he and his team have protected these guys from the get-go. They have allowed the hacking, encouraged it, and supported it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are also getting paid off.

You could be next. They may already have your number.

I WANT AN AUTONOMOUS HOUSE! Marilyn Armstrong

Autonomous house, autonomous life!

The self-driving vehicle is on the way. It’s on the news and in the news. A few accidents. One death. But considering the number of accidents just backing out of a driveway in suburbia, that’s pretty good.

I can actually see a day coming when Robert Heinlein’s vision will have arrived. Not exactly as he predicted, but close enough for folk music.

We could definitely use a self-driving car because neither one of us wants to drive anywhere, but we are driving a not-yet-paid-for second-hand 2012 Jeep Patriot, so a self-driving car doesn’t look likely to appear for us.

Autonomous cars would be great. Finally, we could blame everything on computers. Nothing would be anyone’s fault. The manufacturer’s of colliding cars could duke it out in court and all we’d have to do is recover from being slammed by a 40-foot moving van. Anyway, by then, medicine will be free. I know this because we are all moving in the direction of more freedom for all Americans.

We aren’t? Did I mis-hear the news again?

However much an autonomous self-driving vehicle would solve many issues, an autonomous, self-repairing, self-cleaning house would really do the job! If a tile on the roof gets damaged, the technology will grow another in its place. You’ll never know it happened. The furnace, will operate on hydrogen drawn from well-water and will never need filling. Rugs will be permanently free of dog hair, grit, pollen, and mud.

Pipes would never clog.

Of course, this presumes that we continue to get rain and have wells and aquifers. And we don’t turn into a charred desert or return to the Cretaceous period and have to live in trees.

Mostly, I want the autonomous house where everything gets fixed and I don’t have to figure out how to pay for it or even know I have a problem.

This whole “take care of your house” and “please don’t back into anything” is getting old.

I don’t think ANY of us should be driving. We are too distracted. Overly busy with phones, not to mention worries, conversations, and work. There are too many cars. Everywhere. Even where there aren’t a lot of people, there are still too many cars.

MAKE IT ALL AUTONOMOUS.

Anything you can run without needing me to do it, I’m a BIG yes. Please do not send me a bill.

Why is it always about MONEY?

I, CLONE – Marilyn Armstrong

Doppelganger

So my clone went to the police station this morning to report being hacked. It wasn’t a crime because I was massively inconvenienced, but nothing was stolen. They tried, they failed.

I spent all day yesterday until the wee hours of the morning trying to reconstruct my computer. It’s now about 75% done. I take long periods off because I really hate this part of computing. It’s just boring and you sit for a long time watching percentages very slowly going up, finding the latest version of whatever software you used to use and you try to install like you did, but for some reason, this time is doesn’t want to install.

Some stuff has disappeared entirely and you realize you really don’t remember most of your passwords. Consider the possibility of getting one of the pieces of software that saves your passwords … but what if something happens and IT goes missing — taking all your passwords with it? Don’t tell me it can’t happen. It definitely can, has, and will again in the future.

I am adding this because it proves that I ALMOST have my photography stuff working. Almost. Not quite.

It turns out, the policeman with whom I was speaking got hacked too and his computer is in the same lock down mine was in. Lucky guy, because I know how to fix it. It is very easy, insanely boring and takes FOREVER. No hard choices to make and no requirements of knowing anything about computers. Mostly what you need is endless patience.

I told him. He was figuring he was going to have to go buy a new computer, so maybe I saved him a thousand dollars or so. It felt good to know something useful to someone else.

There’s a lot of this going around and there will always be more to come. I pointed out that Charter, our Uxbridge cable company (we don’t get a choice, someone made a deal and we live with it) has a firewall which — in theory — should have stopped this. But Adobe was hacked. Experion was hacked. Bank of America was hacked.

Given one thing or another expecting Charter to protect us was stupid, but I wasn’t thinking about getting hacked. Viruses and worms — but HACKING? Seriously? Me?

Just because I could do it!

I was afraid of viruses and worms, but not hacking. Why would anyone bother to hack me? We have no money and we are no one special.

Apparently this is a totally random venture. Because no matter who you are, these rat bastards can try to squeeze a little money out of you.

All my credit cards are fraud-protected. I lost nothing. They were also on the ball. Amazon and Walmart stopped the crooks before I knew they were there, while we were at the hospital. Which was when most of this was going on. I’m not sure if my being home would have made a difference. I wasn’t, so it doesn’t matter.

I promised the people at PayPal that I’d go to the police and report it because, she says, they collect the data and it’s important if we want to ever get rid of these rats.

They really ARE rats.

DOCUMENTATION WITHOUT WORDS ISN’T DOCUMENTATION – Marilyn Armstrong

A couple of weeks ago I bought myself an iPad Mini. It was $100 less on Walmart because it had iOS 9 on it rather than the current iOS 11. Anyone who knows anything about Apple knows it doesn’t matter what iOS is on it.

The moment you turn it on, it will instantly update to the new iOS — even if you would prefer it not do that.

I bought it. Less than $300 with 128 GB innards. Nice cream color. Brand new and their 4-year support was only $40 instead of the $69 Apple charges. Moreover, it’s local. Our nearest Apple outlet is a long drive from here and has been one of the reasons I’ve been loathe to get involved with Apple.

But it turns out, getting customer service is hopeless anyway. Whether it’s local or in some foreign country, service will be awful. Given the awfulness, you might as well pay less.

So now I have this iPad Mini which I got the next day. Cute little thing. We were on our way to visit Tom and Ellen, so instead of unpacking it, I stowed it in my computer bag and took it with me. Tom set it up in a few minutes and voilà. A functional iPad Mini 4.

I looked at it. “So what’s next?”

The cover (yes, purple)

I have no idea what to do with it. I read and listen to Audiobooks on my Kindle. So what do I do with this? My theory had been that I wanted something small and light that would get me into my email and let me correct typos on my blog without hauling 9 pounds of Dell wherever I go. I love my computer, but it weighs like two cinder blocks.

Tom has an iPad (regular size) and he uses it for almost everything. Almost. He also has a keyboard that also works as a case and a stand.

“Should I get the ridiculously expensive Apple keypad for this?” I ask him.

“God no,” he says. I look at his. It was a Logitech. No problem. I’m good with Logitech.

I go home and look it up on Amazon. Instead of $159, it’s $69.95. Except if I don’t mind getting it in purple, it’s $42.50. Purple is good. Goes well with the lovely cream. I order it. This is my “less than $300 solution to the $2000 problem.” What I really need is a lightweight but powerful computer, but that’s big money and we have home repairs lurking.

Maybe more dark violet than purple

It arrived today. In a nicely padded envelope. I open it. Take out the box. Eventually figure out how to open the box (I hate packaging) and remove the item. I’ve read a lot of angry reviews on how easily it breaks. I look at it. Yeah, I can see if you mistreat it, it would break. But in my entire life, I’ve never broken a computer or a cell phone. I take care of my equipment. If it breaks, it’s something internal, not because I dropped it or stepped on it or abused it.

I did notice a couple of people who suggested if everyone would treat their equipment gently, it would last longer. My sentiments exactly.

On the back of the box, it tells me what’s inside — including documentation, the keyboard case and a charging cord.

“Documentation” with REALLY SHORT cord

The documentation is missing the one thing that means documentation to me. No words. It’s a piece of cardboard with small, incomprehensible pictures. Which I follow until I get to a point where all I can say is “WHAT????” I know they want me to do something, but I have no idea what.

Documentation and the cord. Could they have made it any shorter?

I have no idea how to get it to pair with the iPad. It’s a Bluetooth device and I’ve got other Bluetooth stuff. It’s usually pretty easy, but I’m baffled because nothing is happening.

Finally, I say “Screw it.” I open my computer and look for installation instructions for the keyboard. Online. At Logitech.com.

Logitech says:


LOGITECH

Before you connect your iPad mini to the Focus keyboard case, make sure it’s inserted correctly into the case:

1 – Place your iPad mini so the camera lines up with the camera lens cutout on the Focus case.
2 – Snap the corners of the iPad into the holder to secure it.

To connect for the first time

1 – The Focus case doesn’t have an On/Off switch. To turn on your keyboard case, open it and rest the iPad mini on the strip directly above the keyboard. The status indicator on the top right of the keyboard will glow green.
2 – On first connection, your keyboard enters Bluetooth discovery mode and the status indicator will blink blue rapidly.
3 – Go to the Bluetooth settings on your iPad and select Focus Keyboard Case in the Devices list.
4 – If your iPad mini requests a PIN, enter it using the keyboard (not on your iPad mini).

Once the connection is made, the status indicator will turn solid blue. Your keyboard is ready to use.


There were no illustrations. They didn’t need any.

There were other instructions in case you want to connect the same device to a different iPad, but I only have one. It took me about 3 seconds to connect it once I had WORDS as instructions. Two paragraphs of WORDS.

No tiny pictures. One picture in the original “document” which had words in it, but no amount of squinting and changing angles enabled me to read those teeny tiny 4 point letters.

Now I have a lovely purple keyboard case that types. It’s a bit small, but so is the iPad. If I can figure out what to do with the iPad, that will make me happier.

I could use it to play games, but I can play games on my Kindle and my computer. I could watch Netflix, but … why? This is basically the problem I have always had with iPads — not having any idea why I need one and what it can do for me that isn’t already being done by something else.

Tom says I need to mess around with it and find cool stuff for it to do. Okay. I’ll do that. Whatever cool stuff is. It is possible I’m not really cool enough for devices.

ANYONE LOOKING TO REHOME A LAPTOP?

I discovered today that the reason Garry’s computer won’t work  properly is the battery is dead. It’s an expensive computer and just 4 years old, but batteries apparently have a lifespan — about three to six-years — and this one went rather early.

At home with the computer

The problem is because it’s such a high-end computer, you can only get the battery from Alienware — and the price of the battery is likely to exceed the value of the computer itself. The good news? The computer can work indefinitely as long as it’s plugged in, so I guess it’s going to stay plugged in. Garry likes the computer and he usually plugs it in anyhow. I just hate when things are sort of broken, even if you can make them work, more or less.

This is the one Garry has now

Meanwhile, my backup computer — a little lightweight machine I use for email and fixing typos on my blog — seems to have a dying monitor. Except it worked PERFECTLY for the repair guy. He said: “I see this a lot.”

It really is like going to the dentist and having your toothache vanish.
I can fix that one because it wasn’t expensive and it’s old — despite which, it runs like a perfectly ticking clock. Go figure.

I’m feeling under-computerized. I’ve given away all my spares. Ironically, the ones I gave away are working fine. The one my granddaughter is using has to be at least 10 or 11 years old and it’s fine. The one my son has is maybe 5 or 6 years old — and it is fine too. My newer, expensive computers are the problem.

Kindle and iPad

I thought maybe I’d get an iPad for me except my last two iPad experiences weren’t great. I’m not a lover of the Mac operating system. I like a more structured system and the iPad is very limited, at least for the amount of money it costs.

I’ve found some really good deals on the newest 9.7″ iPad … and I just can’t seem to buy it. Am I being silly?

A newer alien

Maybe I’m not in a buying mood. I did manage to get organized enough to order new dog biscuits because (horrors) … we were due to run out! I know. I get shaky just thinking about how hideous life could become were we to seriously not have dog biscuits available.

Anyone have a spare functional laptop looking for a good home?

BEFORE THE “CLOUD”

ARE YOU OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER?
OH SURE YOU ARE.

I wonder if operating systems will be relevant a few years from now. Change has been a synonym for technology for the past 30 years or more. Change has driven the computer industry. Change is why we need to buy new software, hardware and operating systems.

Change can make things work better, but it’s not unusual to discover that your “upgrade” is a downgrade because what used to work no longer does. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

I grew to adulthood in a pre-computer society. I started working before cable TV, when encyclopedias were huge heavy sets of books and a computer was gigantic and needed a whole building for itself. It ran on punch cards and used machine languages — COBOL and FORTRAN.

Decades later, personal computers were still just one step removed from a doorstop, floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and really flopped.

Those early machines (personal units, not mainframes) — I hesitate to call them computers — didn’t do much. They didn’t have hard drives. There was no software and no user-friendly interface. I don’t think the concept existed. No WYSIWYG. What you saw was a black screen with lurid green letters that made you feel as if you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then everything changed. First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but it got better.

In the beginning, there were different players in the marketplace and many more choices of operating system. Wang and DEC plus a crazy quilt of dedicated word processors and computers made by Commodore, Atari and many others. For a while, I had an Amstrad, a European machine that was almost a computer, kind an intelligent typewriter with a screen. It spit out paper.

Soon everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. Magic!

The speed of change accelerated. Technology was in hyperdrive. Then came a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to use it. After I got connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around. Mostly, you bumped into other people looking for something interesting. And then came AOL.

You could send electronic mail — email — if you had a friends with computers. You sent them messages over old copper telephone wires and everything happened in slow motion.

Just getting on to the Internet could take … well, let me put it this way. Turn on the computer. Turn on the modem. Go to the kitchen. Prepare dinner. Cook dinner. Serve dinner. Eat dinner. Clean up everything. By the time you got back to your computer, you might have actually managed to connect to something. Or not.

Then suddenly there were ISPs popping up all over the place. I got a super fast modem that ran at a whopping 2400 BPS! Imagine that. I worked in California from my home office in Boston. Cool! Telecommuting was the cat’s pajamas.

By the time my granddaughter was born in 1996, everybody had a computer or two. In her world, computers have always been fast, the Internet has always been the world’s shopping mall.

At age three, she could run basic applications. For her, it’s like electricity was to us: something you use that is always there. Always was. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it. It’s hard for me to remember that world — and I certainly would not want to go back there.

stone tools

For a brief interval, the rate of change slowed. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a couple of years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it right away. Everything kept getting faster and soon, with cable modems, no one could even remember what it was like to try to get onto the Internet using an old telephone line.

Every time you looked around, there was a  new generation of processors, bigger and faster hard drives, amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off.

The Internet became a world-sized shopping mall and overnight, catalogue shopping became website cruising. The Internet was a world unto itself; I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast.

We have computers all over the house and what isn’t a computer is run by a computer or contains a mini computer … microwave ovens, smartphones, digital cameras and GPS units.  Three computers are in daily use plus two Kindles — and only 2 people live here. We should get computers for the dogs. For all I know, when we are out, they go on-line and order stuff.

A brief interruption of cable service leaves us wandering around like wraiths, without form or function.  Now, we live in “the cloud.” It’s the same old Internet, but cloud is the “new” word for data stored on external servers. We’re going back to where we began, to using stripped down computers with no hard drives. Instead, everything is stored on someone else’s computer — out there. In the cloud. Our data might be anywhere. We have no way of knowing where it lives. Most people don’t care … until they discover it has been hacked.

Am I the only one who finds this unnerving?

I can see advantages. When you eliminate memory sucking operating systems and cumbersome installed applications, your computer will run faster. Start-up is instantaneous because your computer doesn’t have to load services and applications. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade big expensive applications and volumes of data. You won’t need ever bigger hard drives, more memory and video RAM. You wind up with faster computers that are less expensive and easier to maintain. It’s a win-win, right?

Or is it? How much do you trust your Internet service provider?

If your cable company has a bad day or the servers on which you store your critical data go down — even for a short while — you have nothing. As long as everything works like it’s supposed to, it’s hunky dory, but Murphy hasn’t left the building yet.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time.

Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I own. Mine. Just in case. Because I’ve used a lot of different clouds over the years and at least half of them have folded their servers and disappeared. The only places where my data lives permanently are Amazon for books, Audible for audiobooks … and places I shop. And, of course, the bank. Because some things, you just have to count on surviving.

All my photographs are on external hard drives as is all my writing. Including the posts from this blog. Because it makes me feel better.

I can’t live with the idea of entrusting everything —  from photographs to manuscripts — to an unknown server somewhere in the world. It scares the hell out of me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? Is hit by an earthquake?

You have no way of knowing what country your data is in or how stable its government is. Or how good an infrastructure it has — or how frequently it has been hacked. Your financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

My bank got hacked too. I think almost every place I have data stored has been hacked at least once. On the other hand, my personal, external hard drives have not been hacked because they aren’t hackable.

How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are busy or crashed? The times when their — or your — servers are inaccessible because of maintenance, repair or upgrade. Or those ubiquitous hackers. What if you need a critical piece of data from a server while its offline? It does happen.

If your ISP is down, you are out of business. If you think your cable company has you by the throat now, how much worse will it be if everything you need to run your life and business is dependent on their services? Come to think of it, we may already be there because when our WiFi is down, we feel … crippled. Like we are missing our hands.

Those of you who are old enough to remember the great Northeast power blackout in the mid 1960s know what I mean when I say that overloaded systems can go down like dominoes. I am all in favor working together with my fellow human beings throughout the world, but if you put the world’s eggs in one basket and the basket falls, that’s a hell of a lot of broken eggs.

That’s way beyond an omelet. It’s just a complete mess.

I worked for more than 35 years in development. That was my world and although I’m not an engineer or developer, I know what’s behind a user interface. For example, modern word processors embed commands in text, but behind the interface, it’s entering the same commands I entered directly on the huge IBM mainframe by hand. It’s faster and prettier now. You get to see how your document will look when it’s printed, but it’s nothing but an elegant wrapping on an old familiar box.

My concern is not the graphical user interface (GUI) that overlays our computer (regardless of operating system), but that these new operating systems are designed to work with “The Cloud” … a meaningless term that represents servers located anywhere and everywhere. We don’t have to know where they are; they’re in the Cloud … kind of like Angels and God. We are being herded toward using external storage and we aren’t supposed to be alarmed that we have no control over it.

We use services consisting of server farms located somewhere on earth for our bank records, calendars, contacts, blog posts, Facebook, Twitter … and everything we’ve ever bought on line. Everything. We assume the people from whom this server space is leased are dependable. We assume they are not criminals looking to steal identities and data … and their infrastructure is secure and won’t collapse from a power outage or hacker attack. And finally, we trust our ISPs to deliver the goods, keep us online so we can access the stuff we need.

Charter Communications is my cable company and controls my high-speed internet access, as well as my TV and telephone. I have difficulty controlling the wave of rage I feel when I think about them. How do you feel about your cable company, eh?

An old PC. I think I had one like this for 20 years …

Even if the servers that store your stuff are safe, you can’t get there without a high-speed connection and that, my friends, means your local ISP … cable, telephone, satellite, whatever you use. They already have you by the short hairs. You are not independent; you rely on their services.

Anybody anywhere can build a server farm. It’s a great business that requires a bunch of servers, a climate controlled place to put them, and a few IT people to tend the equipment.

Where are these places? A lot of it is located in places that have government which are — by any standards — unstable. How good is the infrastructure? Are they in the middle of a war? Are their electrical generating facilities dependable or sufficient? What protection against hackers do they provide? Are they trustworthy? They could easily be a bunch of criminals and the data they collect is the mother lode.

Remember when Equifax got hacked? How appalled we were, but how they sort of shrugged it off? That won’t be the last time.

Meanwhile, the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.

Call me cynical. Paranoid. I think the “cloud” is snake oil. Use the “Cloud” when you must, but have dependable external drives too.

Trust in God, but tie your camel.